In the Trenches: Getting Connected Overseas

BrettSnyder by Brett Snyder on August 31, 2011

In my business, I need to be connected pretty much all the time. That’s easy to do when I’m in the U.S., but when I leave, it’s a whole different story. Staying connected abroad is still insanely expensive and incredibly frustrating.

I’m don’t have heavy or complicated data needs. I simply need to stay in touch via email. If something important requires my involvement, then I can find a Wi-Fi hotspot and log on. But for the most part, I just need to be available for troubleshooting when I’m out.

In the U.S., that’s simple. I have phone service via T-Mobile and a wireless card in my computer from Verizon. I did that on purpose: Two different networks provide more widespread coverage. But internationally, none of this works well.

I used to have a Blackberry, and with T-Mobile, you could pay a flat fee and get unlimited email. That was excellent. But then I joined the rest of the free world and migrated toward Android (or iPhone). Now that email option isn’t available and instead, I pay through the nose.

I was in Germany in May and within a couple hours of landing, I had a text message saying I had reached $50 in data usage. I hadn’t done anything except turn on my phone and it did the rest.

I was up in Canada last week and actually turned my data connection off, yet somehow I still got that same text message from T-Mobile gleefully telling me that it was going to charge me incredibly inflated rates for data that I hadn’t even used. That combined with horrifically slow internet speeds in the hotel left me mostly unconnected, and full of anxiety.

My frustration is mounting. How do you deal with connectivity while traveling outside the country? My next trip outside the U.S. is in October and I’d like to have a new plan by then.


Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.